Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

May Day Blues

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 1st May, 2017

Mayday 2012 Clerkenwell LondonI was having lunch at the Café Rouge in Kingsway, Camden, watching the rain outside when a May Day parade of trade unionists and socialists went past. I’ve always had a soft spot for trade union banners, some of which are truly beautiful, though my eyes nearly popped out when one particularly well-crafted banner went past with a large picture of Stalin on it. I’ve always considered Stalin to be just as bad as Hitler — two sides of the same coin — both guilty of presiding over the deaths of millions of their own people (not that Hitler considered Jews, Roma, gays etc as truly German). There are obviously still some Communists about in London, as the flurry of red flags, proudly bearing the hammer and sickle, went past on Kingsway, along with some banners proclaiming “Smash Capitalism!” Those made me feel almost nostalgic for the student revolutionary politics of the late 1960s and early 1970s, though such revolutionary romantic feelings evaporated when a large contingent of Venezuela’s government went past, seemingly unconcerned that years of socialism in that oil-rich country have brought the economy to its knees, while supermarket shelves are empty and those fortunate enough to live near enough to the border with Colombia go shopping there. As I saw for myself in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s and Cuba a decade later, leftist policies just don’t work. And whereas slogans such as Workers of the World Unite sound lovely and fraternal, the class hatred engendered by Marxism-Leninism and some of its later offshoots promises not nirvana but mayhem. Doubtless many of those marching on the parade today are all fired up because there is an election on and they have a new hate figure in Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May. Well, I dislike her too, mainly because of the way she has embraced Brexit, but I don’t buy into the discourse of smashing things in the name of the people. Besides, after the thousandth red banner went past, I felt quite bilious. Ah well, to all of those who were stirred by today’s May Day festivities:  enjoy its closing hours and reflect on the fact that Britain’s early May bank holiday won’t actually fall on May Day again for several more years.

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